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Nor-Shipping: Regulation fuels development in marine hull coatings game

How can novel scientific approaches create opportunity in shipping? 

I-Tech CEO Philip Chaabane, chief executive of I-Tech, the Swedish company behind a unique additive that repels baracles from ships’ hulls, believes the shipping industry needs to be open to novel ideas.

It is by thinking outside the box, that experts have discovered solutions that revolutionise the prevention of marine biological fouling on ship hulls, he said at one of the Disrutpive Talks at Nor-Shipping hosted by Fathom. Advances in the science behind coating technology development are providing new avenues to create change, he said. The disrupters are not only those that come from within the industry, offering new ideas and approaches, but also those that introduce and adapt solutions from other industries to incite positive impact in the field of traditional technologies.

Philip Chaabane believes regulation has been the biggest disruptor in the field of marine hull coatings. His company has developed a new form of antifouling agent under the tradename Selektope and has been selling it to paint manufacturers since 2006. Selektope employs a pharmacological mode of action to combat barnacle settlement on hulls and is non-lethal to aquatic life. One of the most common anti-fouling agents, TBT, has been banned by the IMO since 2008 due to its toxicity.

Chaabane explained that the company chose this particular solution to the maritime bio-fouling problem through a little bit of luck and some well known metrics. But even though it is a very novel solution to an age-old problem, Chaabane believes it is really disruption on a lower level, as the product slots in easily with existing technologies; Selektope can be added to marine hull coatings in low concentrations of just a few grams per litre to improve their efficacy.


Philip Chaabane was joined on stage by Michael Laurin, CEO Laurin Maritime (pictured); Per Wimby, naval architect/project manager, Stena; Raouf Kattan, managing director Safinah; and Tor Svensen, former maritime CEO at DNV GL and now director at Safinah.



But along with Selektope, there are many bio-fouling solutions on offer in the marketplace, and as Raouf Kattan, managing director at Safinah, explained, the envelope of ingredients has been widening. This has been driven in a large part by the TBT ban. Kattan added that today there is also a lot more variance in the performance of different products. This fact doesn’t make life easy for the shipowners who have to choose which hull coating to opt for. Per Wimby says this has been difficult to get right for Stena.

“It’s a science and we are struggling with it, I can tell you,” he said. The other owner on the panel, Michael Laurin, has had similar challenges.

“We’ve invested heavily in measurement technology,” he explained. “We’re down to tenths of a percent now. We’ve seen a few paints that haven’t delivered and a few that definitely do.”

And when those hull coatings don’t deliver the efficiency losses and subsequent costs can be massive, a point that Safinah director Tor Svensen illustrated. Svensen says that a 10% performance deterioration due to bio-fouling is quite common. And along with the extra financial burden comes the environmental cost. But Svensen believes regulations will drive more change in the area. He sees bio-fouling legislation following a similar route to ballast water rules, where the invasive species angle will also be looked at along with the CO2 considerations.

Philip Chaabane is optimistic about legislation driving change. “Hopefully the regulatory environment will help with the development of coatings, and the science too,” he said.


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